Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History

Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History

Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History

Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History

Synopsis

A fascinating portrait of the Pythagorean tradition, including a substantial account of the Neo-Pythagorean revival, and ending with Johannes Kepler on the threshold of modernism. "This book, written by one of the world's leading authorities on ancient philosophy, combines a lucid overview of the broad sweep of the Pythagorean tradition, appropriate for readers new to the subject, with new scholarly insights, which will make it essential reading for scholars as well. There really is no comparable up-to-date volume available in English. It is a wonderful book." -- Carl Huffman, DePauw University

Excerpt

As conceived here, the pythagorean tradition, which begins in the sixth century B.C., stretches down to the seventeenth century A.D. and includes major developments in religion, science, and philosophy. A full history of this movement would be a staggering enterprise, and no one has addressed such a task since A. E. Chaignet's two volumes, Pythagore et la philosophie pythagoricienne, published in 1873. What is attempted here is something more modest: a survey of the whole tradition, period by period, reflecting contemporary scholarship.

Naturally enough, most of the work in twentieth-century scholarship has been devoted to Pythagoras and to the early history of the school. It is peculiarly difficult to obtain a reliable picture of Pythagorean thought for the period before Plato. Pythagoras himself became a legendary figure in his own lifetime, while our fullest accounts of the early school come from much later documents, above all from two Neoplatonic “Lives” of Pythagoras composed almost a millennium after his death. The most fundamental work here has been done by Walter Burkert, who (in the 1962 book translated in 1972 as Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism) showed how radically the traditional account of Pythagorean doctrine was altered or invented by Plato's immediate followers. All of us who work on the Pythagoreans

For a useful survey, with an up-to-date bibliography, see Bruno Cen
trone, Introduzione a I pitagorici (Roma-Bari: Editori Laterza, 1996).

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